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One hundred and fifty educators from around the country came together on the campus of Bronx Community College on August 8 for a fearlessly honest exchange on a subject many try to avoid: race.

Organized by the Office of Community College Research and Leadership (OCCRL) of the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign, the purpose of the Advancing Racial Justice & Equitable Outcomes Institute was to explore “issues surrounding race, race relations and racism, because a lot of that is focused on four-year campuses but we also know that there’s a racialized reality at community colleges,” said Dr. Eboni Zamani-Gallaher of the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. Dr. Zamani-Gallagher is one of the principal investigators attached to the grant from the Lumina Foundation which funds the undertaking.

Added the other principal investigator responsible for the daylong event, Dr. J. Luke Wood of San Diego State University, “Ultimately, we are talking about two different things — hate crimes and bias incidents. Both of those are taking place at community colleges across the country. It’s part of a national climate. What we’re trying to do is create awareness about it and provide people with specific tools and strategies they can use and take back to their own institutions to create healthier environments for everyone.”

That goal was reflected in a morning of addresses and workshops held in the Hall of Fame Playhouse in the Roscoe Brown Student Center and an afternoon of breakout sessions that took place in classrooms in North Hall and Library. Participants included educators from BCC — Associate Professors (History) Mara Lazda and Associate Professor (Psychology) Monique Guishard were the facilitators of a conversation on “Racial Equity and Social Justice at the Community College: Creating Curricular and Co-Curricular Opportunities,” while a session on “Advancing Black and Brown Students’ Persistence in Community College” was led by Professor (Reading and Academic Literacy) Ted Ingram.

What attendees learned and shared at the conference they are now passing on at community colleges across the country.

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